With the right marinade, you can dress up meats, chicken, fish or vegetables quickly, finish them off with a quick broil grill, microwave or saute, and dinner is served.
Lucy Vaserfirer’s Marinades: The Quick Fix Way to Turn Everyday Food into Exceptional Fare (2014, www.harvardcommonpress.com) featuers inventive and delectable oil-, vinegar-, citrus-, herb- and cream-based marinades. The cookbook’s 200 marinades range from American, French and Italian marinades to adventuresome and assertive ideas from Mexico and Latin America Asia and beyond. Each of the marinades is accompanied by an additional recipe that shows one way to use it, as well as a list of other foods the marinade pairs well with.
Along with recipes like Basil-Tangerine Marinated Chicken Breasts, Grilled Raspberry-Chipotle Marinated Baby Back Ribs and Buttermilk Ranch Marinade for Chicken-Fried Steak with Gravy, etc., Vaserfirer includes handy tips.
THE HANDY-DANDY ZIP-TOP BAG
Marinating inside a zip-top bag — 1-gallon size works best — allows you to minimize the amount of marinade necessary for any food. When you press all the air out of the bag as you seal it, the marinade is drawn up and around the food, maximizing contact between the two. That means you can use less marinade than with any other vessel.
Another benefit of using zip-top bags is that it makes the whole process more convenient — no bowls or whisks required, and nothing to wash afterward. The bag will stay open by itself if you open it wide and cuff the top, allowing you to measure the marinade ingredients right into it. Then you simply shake the bag to blend everything together, or sort of squeeze and massage the bag when the marinade includes sticky ingredients like honey.
Once it’s well combined, just pop the food into the bag and turn it in the marinade to coat. Seal the bag, pressing out all the air as you do, and refrigerate the whole thing until it’s time to cook — you don’t even have to flip it. And at the end, the bag goes straight into the trash, so cleanup is a snap. The zip-top bag acts as sous chef and dishwasher all in one.
Still, if you prefer to marinate in a dish or bowl, choose one made of glass or other nonreactive material. In terms of size, the food should just fit snugly in a single layer so that the level of the marinade is as deep as possible and the food is submerged as much as possible. You’ll have to flip the food periodically for it to marinate evenly.
MAXIMIZING FLAVOR PENETRATION
Marinades penetrate only the surface layer of foods, and this is deep enough to have a huge impact on flavor. But it’s possible to speed and increase absorption of a marinade by making slashes in the food with a knife, puncturing it all over with a fork or Jaccard meat tenderizer (a tool that pokes holes into meat with rows of needle-like blades), or cutting it into smaller pieces to increase the surface area. You can also inject marinade directly into food using a syringe-like tool specially made for the purpose.
Be aware that techniques involving cutting or piercing will alter the texture of the food.
1/4 cup apricot jam
1/2 teaspoon grated lime zest
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 garlic clove, minced
Freshly ground black pepper
Measure the jam, lime zest, lime juice, oil, soy sauce, ginger and garlic into a 1-gallon zip-top bag and shake or squeeze until blended. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Makes 1/2 cup (enough for 2-4 servings).
Suggested uses: Chicken breasts or pork chops (marinated 2 hours to overnight) or shrimp (marinated 20-45 minutes), grilled.
1/2 to 3/4 pound peeled, deveined large shrimp (21/25 count)
Add shrimp to Apricot-Ginger-Lime Marinade in zip-top bag, turn to coat. Seal the bag, letting out all air. Marinate at least 20 minutes and up to 45 minutes at room temperature.
Remove the shrimp from the marinade, pat dry with paper towels, then grill on an oiled grill grate over direct high heat until just cooked through, 4-5 minutes, turning once. The shrimp will be firm to the touch, opaque and pink, and beginning to curl when they are just cooked through.
Serve the shrimp over couscous with dried fruit and almonds. Offer lime wedges on the side.
Makes 2 servings.